According to The NPD Group’s new annual forecast, the Future of Office Supplies, the U.S. office supplies industry is expected to end 2021 with revenue up 8% compared to 2020. This is also an increase of 8% compared to pre-pandemic revenue in 2019.

Following a challenging 2020 back-to-school season, 2021 back-to-school season sales are up 21% for the five weeks ending August 7, 2021 versus the previous year, based on NPD’s Retail Tracking Service data. Given earlier start dates this back-to-school season versus the delays experienced in 2020, we expect sales in 2021 to slow later in the season and net out with revenue 12% higher than the 2020 back to school season and flat compared to 2019.

With schools across the country returning to the classroom or preparing to do so, the back-to-school season is off to a strong start. Core K-6 school supplies category sales, including items like composition notebooks, encased pencils, coloured pencil sets, and crayons, are up 50% season to date versus last year (five weeks ending August 7, 2021). Some of this growth is being driven by pandemic precautions, such as not sharing supplies. For example, NPD’s Checkout data revealed that teachers expect 73% of their students to bring their own crayons as compared to 49% in previous years – similar trends were noted for markers and glue sticks.

“Coming out of a strong back to school season and looking ahead to the holidays, we expect to see a slight slowdown in office supplies sales compared to 2020, down 1%, but Q4 sales are expected to come in above 2019 levels,” said Leen Nsouli, executive director and office supplies industry analyst for NPD. “During the holiday season we expect wellness activities for use at home or on the road will be a focus, presenting a continued opportunity for the industry. We also expect to see collaboration related supplies do well as U.S. adults continue to find optimal ways to work together in a virtual and hybrid world.”

Looking ahead to 2022 and 2023, NPD forecasts revenue in the office supplies industry to dip slightly, down 2% and 1% respectively. These declines can in-part be attributed to the acceleration of digital product usage in offices and classrooms as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 40% of teachers surveyed in NPD’s Future of Office Supplies report indicated that they will continue to rely more on digital methods of teaching. However, for many industry players this shift has provided opportunity for innovation and is likely to lead to more technology blended products entering the market.

Source: NPD